Married to the Church?

One bride takes a long look at converting faiths

A widespread refrain among many of my 20- and 30-something peers these days is: “I’m spiritual but not religious.” It’s a watered-down, one-size-fits-all, surely-I’m-avoiding-eternal-damnation, religion-y statement that keeps everyone from giving up their Sunday mornings.

But what if you’re marrying someone who’s more committed to his faith? What if the family of your future spouse is firm about religious compatibility?

That’s kind of my situation. My nebulous faith (I was raised Methodist, sort of) is flexible, really. I’m marrying a Catholic who, though he doesn’t go to mass every week, is part of a family that cares a lot about him marrying a Catholic girl. So I’m seriously considering converting.

I mean, why not? I dig Mary Magdalene. I’m a huge Madonna fan, and she’s been making rosary beads fashionable since the early 80s. But seriously, because of my vague, barely there faith as a youth, I feel kind of left out of some of the benefits that belonging to a church can bring. The sense of community, the “we’ve got your back” mentality, the humility of a bowed head … I missed all that, and there’s a big part of me that wants it in my life.

People convert all the time, often around the time they tie the knot. “I converted shortly before I got married, but not to my husband’s religion,” says Alison, a bride from Pittsburgh. “I’d been debating switching from the Catholic Church to the Episcopal, and my experiences trying to find a church in which to get married led me to choose to join the Episcopal Church. The Catholic churches in my area had lots of rules about who could marry in their churches and when. We were planning a Sunday wedding; there was an absolute ‘no’ to the Sunday wedding [in the Catholic church.]”

Alison says the choice to switch religions has brought her and her husband together. “I’d been attending a bible group that was affiliated with the Episcopal Church,” she says. “I ended up calling a Episcopal church near our reception location, and they were fantastic. The pastor was the best officiant we could have ever hoped for. He did one-on-one premarital counseling for us, opened up his church to us, and made us feel so welcome that we became members of his congregation. My husband, who is not religious at all, now attends Sunday services with me, mostly because he respects [our pastor] so much.”

When my fiancé and I met with the priest at his parish, I felt the same way. I was welcomed – the Rev. Joe even made me laugh a few times, which surprised me. (I had no idea priests could be funny!) So I’m open to the possibility of marrying into a different kind of family, and committing not just to my fella, but to a new, hopefully spiritually rewarding way of life.